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Retirees participate in a yoga class in Sun City, Arizona, January 7, 2013. Sun City was built in 1959 by entrepreneur Del Webb as America?s first active retirement community for the over-55's. Del Webb predicted that retirees would flock to a community where they were given more than just a house with a rocking chair in which to sit and wait to die. Today?s residents keep their minds and bodies active by socializing at over 120 clubs with activities such as square dancing, ceramics, roller skating, computers, cheerleading, racquetball and yoga. There are 38,500 residents in the community with an average age 72.4 years. Picture taken January 7, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
Good for you at every age.

Yoga makes brains nimble, too

By Sonali Kohli

Yoga has long been touted as a way to improve physical health and mental wellbeing, but it may also make you better at your job—or your retirement activities. Practicing hatha yoga three times a week improved older Americans’ information recall, mental flexibility and task-switching, according to a study released this week.

The 61 new yogis who participated in the study were between 55 and 79 years old, and attended yoga classes three times a week for eight weeks. Another group of people met for the same amount of time, but practiced general toning and stretching exercises. They saw no significant change in cognitive function over that time.

Hatha, the most common kind of yoga taught in the US, focused on poses called “asanas” and breathing techniques. Previous research has demonstrated that these movements and the focus on breathing can reduce stress and anxiety, and that lower stress may have contributed to the better results, according to the study.

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If you’re looking to get into yoga to sharpen those mental skills, finding classes or videos to get you started isn’t difficult in the US—Americans spend $27 billion a year on yoga products and there were 20.4 million people practicing yoga in the US in 2012.

Older adults were in the minority as of 2008, and experts advise that if you’re going to start yoga at an older age it is important to be cautious. Start with basic poses and breathing exercises, and make sure to modify the poses to avoid putting undue strain on your neck and head.